Having made the decision to try and lock down a consulting contract, what do you think is the very best next move? Brush up your CV? Start dialing for dollars within your network? Scour the opportunities available online? Sit back and hope someone or some organization comes a callin’?
How about making sure you know what success will look like?
What do I mean by that? As espoused by more than 50 aid and development rock stars in “Making It,” diving into a any career move should begin with a clear understanding of:
- What you want to achieve, and
- How you plan to monitor your progress, and
- How will you measure your success.
Without these essentials, it’s extremely easy (and likely) that you’ll find yourself chasing opportunities that are irrelevant and performing work you’re not interested in, or just simply unsatisfying. While this certainly isn’t the end of the world (especially if you continued to get paid for your work), what we are really interested in is creating sustainable and satisfying careers. To that end, we want to make sure that we are pursuing opportunities and accepting work that we find compelling.
What do I want the future to be?
The first step in actuating any goal, I think, should be to envision what you want the future to look, taste and smell like. Most people call this a process of stating a vision. The most important reason to do this is to make sure you have something, in writing, that you can look at during the process (especially in the bad times!) that can act as a reminder of why you are seeking to achieve your goal. This also gives you your ultimate benchmark for success. If you wake up one day, read your vision statement and realize – hey, I’m living this! – there is no better way to confirm you’ve arrived (and then, immediately take the day off in celebration :).
My vision will be very tailored to this specific challenge I’m giving myself, whereas yours may be more broad – focusing on your practice or organization in the longer term.
Creating a vision should be a simple, relatively quick process (if it’s not, you likely have other issues you need to get sorted first). Begin by having fun brainstorming about what a perfect world outcome would look like, providing as much detail as you can. Then, use that brainstorming to write a paragraph (or two if need be) that captures the essence of what you want the future to be. Here’s what I came up with:
Vision: I am leading a process of program or organizational design (likely both, as they are often intimately connected). Perfect world would be working on a true product or process innovation, bringing it to market. I spend 50% of my time at the client’s place of business, interacting with a small team of people, and other half working remotely. My job is ultimately focused on facilitating outputs through a process of individual and group coaching.
What is my goal?
After creating a vision statement that is compelling, you want to craft a goal (or goals!). The most important quality for any goal you set is that it actually moves you in the direction of achieving your vision. Oh, yeah, and of course, it should be SMART.
My goal: Acquire a medium term contract (4-6 months) that requires approximately 40% level of effort (that is, 40% of a full time gig) where I am tasked with facilitating strategy design for an innovative product or process by 30th of June, 2015.
For the sake of argument, let’s see if this goal will live up to expectations:
- Specific? Acquire a medium term contract that required 40% level of effort
- Measurable? This is a yes/no – I either acquire a contract or I don’t
- Achievable? I’m giving myself 4 months to achieve this goal. I think that’s realistic.
- Relative? Acquiring this contract would place me directly in line with the vision I’ve articulated above.
- Time bound? The deadline is 30 June, 2015.
I’m satisfied with my vision and goal, but I’d love to hear what you think – please give me a shout in the comments below!
What’s next? Now that I have laid out the future I’d like to see happen, and I have a measurable goal, I can take the next step of tailoring my story, my CVs, my social profile, etc. to align it with my intended outcome.